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Focusing on the Future Gets Me Get Through Parenting Challenges

I don’t have to tell you that life with small children can get . . . difficult . . . at times. Throw in two parents with full-time jobs, random snow days, sick days, sports, after-school activities, doctor visits, and errands and it can sometimes feel like a little like drowning. I’ll admit, there are weeks where I’ve felt that I’m barely keeping my head above water.

To complicate matters, I feel like so many people tell parents that we should be living in the present, focusing on “now”, and cherishing each and every beautiful little moment. “Time flies,” they say. “Enjoy every second!” But when your kids are very young (and probably even after that), plenty of those moments are something less than beautiful. Sometimes they’re downright frustrating.

Photo Credit: Daphne Doerr Photography

 I love my children, and I hate when they are sick, or hurt, or sad. And I know that I’m lucky to have three healthy children. But I can’t help but get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when things start to go south in our house because I know that with every minor emergency or the first sign of sickness, our lives are about to go into upheaval.

As an example, a few months ago, our family of five were in the midst of a bout of illnesses that at the time seemed never-ending. It started with a sniffle and the dominoes fell in a swoop from there. In a week’s time, we had three nasty chest colds, one stomach bug, two trips to urgent care, and three cases of pinkeye. Of course, all of this required my husband and I to make alternative arrangements for childcare. Plenty of noses were wiped, epic eye-drop battles fought, and tears shed in that week. It got pretty overwhelming, and there was little about it that I would consider beautiful.

Kids get sick. Babies have growth spurts and trouble sleeping. Toddlers go through phases where they are downright cranky for days. Weeks like this aren’t uncommon for most parents – it’s part of the deal. But they can certainly wear you down, and it’s hard not to feel helpless at times. After all, love them as we do, we’re at the mercy of these tiny humans for a long time!

So How do I Tackle these Parenting  Challenges?

There was a time in my career when I was in court almost every day, for one reason or another. While I loved it, there were weeks when it seemed like I had an ocean of work and no way to cross it. Rather than panic, I focused on the future. Not the far-off future, but the “next-week” future. I would think about the fact that by next week, most of the things I was worried about would be in the past. Somehow anytime I felt like drowning, that made it a heck of a lot easier to swim.

As a mother, I’ve found myself coming back to this strategy more and more. Whenever things get difficult, or my life seems hard to control, I focus on the short-term future. These small chunks of time seem easier to handle, like a quick walk rather than a marathon. I’m not wishing away time, I’m just thinking about it in smaller increments.

Now, when I wake in the night to the sound of coughing coming from one of the kids’ bedrooms, I still get that sinking feeling in my stomach. And when I get a call from the daycare in the middle of the day that someone needs to pick up my son because he’s running a temperature, I still wonder when the other shoe will drop. Are the girls going to get sick too? Am I going to catch it or is Mike going to catch it??

But in the midst of it all, I stop and take a breath, and focus on the future. The “next week” future. Because next week, just seven short days from now, this will most likely all be just a memory. Sure, it won’t be one of those beautiful ones. But next week, if we’re lucky, all of this will be behind us and we’ll move on to something else.

Next week, we can make some of those beautiful memories. Maybe we’ll even go to the zoo.

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